Fall…

Sitting at a desk
i gaze at the changes
both within and beyond
the window.

beginning this summer
lush green and inviting
sunshine streaming in…

now the trees glow
in natures splendid show,
brightly alit
the colors of fall

but passing on, leaves drop by
at great pace…
counting down to what seems yet another winter,
bidding their time
for the future in store

but for now, small talks…
Autumn equinox!

Conundrum Hot Springs Backpack- take 2 !

So in my last post i talked about my first tryst with Conundrum Hot Springs. While incredible, i wanted to go back in better weather and in better shape! So id been eagerly looking for an opportunity, and incidentally my local hiking club posted a backpacking trip over the weekend of 23rd October 2015. Obviously i signed up immediately, and soon we had a group of 4 ready to go.

The drive up to Aspen on Friday was uneventful, and we reached the trail head at around 11pm. Surprisingly there was about 1-2 inches of snow on the ground at the trailhead. We cleared of some snow, setup tents and slept. Someone had a huge 4-5 person tent, so 3 of us shared. The fourth had a single person tent to himself. We awoke to a freezing next morning and wrapped up the tents, packed our bags and had breakfast in the cold and had to sit in the car for around 20 minutes with the heater on full blast. Finally we strapped on our backpacks over our fleece jackets and started the 8.5 mile journey at around 9:15am. The trail started off gently with some snow on the sides. The sun was still rising and was not yet over the mountains surrounding the valley. We covered the first 2.5 miles at a good pace and reached the first bridge crossing of the trail, stopping only once en-route mainly to shed off an extra layer of jackets. It was a pretty good start to the day!

First look entering the conundrum valley as the trail begins
The bridge at the first stream crossing. 2.5miles in.
Snow capped peaks flank the trail as we head up the valley
More views from one of the open meadows along the trail

After the first bridge, the trail goes through a meadow for a while, and the sun had started to come out over us and the sunshine felt amazing in the cold of the morning. The trail then climbs steadily for a mile or so along the edge of the cliff constantly heading up into the Conundrum valley. The next couple miles are pretty flat meadows. There was a lot of snow on the sides of the trail. I was doing pretty well and covering my miles at a very good pace, and had been leading the group for a long while now.  The views on either side were simply gorgeous, there is something truly special about a deep blue Colorado sky, the fresh soft white snow  adorning the Colorado peaks, set against the deep green of the tall and resolute Colorado conifers. Truly a Colorado experience!

At the silver dollar pond
Another impressive peak with snow covered Boulders strewn across near the base near the trail

By now (noon to 1PM) the sun was out in full and the hiking had heated me up so i had shed all my layers and was just in my hiking shirt. At around the 6 mile marker i reached the silver dollar pond. There i rested for a while and ate lunch along the snowy banks. Around this time is when the back of the famed Maroon-bells peak with its trademark striations is seen really clearly and up close. Approximately now too the second member of our group manages to catch up to me and as i was still resting and eating he continued onwards along the trail.

First look at the snow capped Maroon-Bells peak. Note the trademark striations. 

Getting to the silver dollar pond is a good sign, the end is getting closer, although the steepest section through the thick forest is what remains in the final 2.5 miles! The snow here was fresh and thick.. about 2 to 3 inches easy. It was pretty challenging switching to walking through snow now after having been on a good trail for so long. After this there is a section of marshy grassy land which leads to the final valley we have to climb along. Here i found a couple of hikers, who were lost and dint know the way forward.. i was able to guide them to the final stream crossing (without any actual bridge present we had to improvise and go over the most stable log fallen partly across the stream) where  they took a break an i continued upward into the snowy forest. I chugged along the climb steadily and made my way up the final valley. Pretty soon, i was welcomed by the sign indicating the first of the lower campsites and the map showing the springs and the other campsites closer to the springs. I had reached my destination! Close to 3PM.

Hiking though the snow covered forest on the final section of the trail

Snow covered trees looking very splendid
At the Conundrum hot springs. Finally. Very serene, beautiful and very rustic and rudimentary

The hot springs looked very serene and inviting, bathed in sunshine surrounded by mighty snow covered peaks and pine trees. We were the first ones there and managed to get the campsite thats closest to the hot springs (up by the right hand side behind some trees, Number 6 if i remember correctly) We cleared off the snow and setup our tents. Soon the third member of our party joined us and helped me setup the tent. We stretched out for a bit, packed our towels, water and dinner, and headed to the hot springs at about 4-430PM. There was a couple lounging in the pool.We got in and started chatting a bit as we admired the views, relaxed our muscles in the hot water, and saw the sun rays go down over the mountains surrounding us. Sunset was approaching soon, and we got an amazing view of Alpenglow  as the final rays of the day began to set behind the slopes. It was majestic. A great start to what was going to be a fun evening soaking!

The evening soak begins whilst admiring the setting sunrays

Alpenglow
The final rays of the day kissing the snow capped peaks

After sunset, it got dark pretty fast. And in the dusk, more folks started rolling in and heading to their campsites. After most of them got setup they started soaking with us too. At around 5-530 the final member of our group made it to the campsites (it was her first backpack experience!) and settled in. In chatting with the others who had joined us in the springs, i found that the hikers i had guided earlier across the stream several hours back, had just made it to the lower campsites and were too exhausted so they were planning on soaking next morning. I was happy to hear they made it, but disappointed that they stopped just so short- just a few hundred more feet and they would have camped in the upper campsites and soaked in the evening as well!

Sunset colors seen along with the steam coming from the Hot springs

As night fell, more folks started coming into the springs. After a while, the snowy peaks around us were starting to get lit in a strange luminescent glow, after more time it got even brighter, and soon we realized the moon was now rising over the mountains and was the reason for the glow. We all saw as the moon slowly came out from behind the pointy peaks and spread its glow. It was pretty close to a full moon–  a gibbous moon. As everyone was bathed in magical moonlight, the glow from the snow started looking even more splendid, and another side effect was that the folks who were skinny dipping became slightly more conspicuous :P…

By around 8-9 everyone had started having dinner, and were merrily chatting and admiring the surroundings. The alcohol and the joints were also starting to pass around freely now. We were also joined by a group of about 6 guys who were there celebrating someone’s bachelor’s party. What an awesome idea we all thought. A truly unique and magical, perhaps a little hippy, experience to commemorate the occasion. The atmosphere was pretty jovial, as  everyone soaked in the soothing waters, the temperatures around us were dropping fast as night began to set in. Contrary to my expectations, the bachelor party guys were actually pretty mellow. We all also began a game of guessing where/which part of the world/US everyone in the hot springs was from based on the accent. Most of the US folks were pretty easy, but there was this girl who had a very strong and unique accent. Everyone was puzzled.  Majority of the people guessed eastern Europe, German, or middle eastern … but to everyones dismay, it turned out to be Chile. It was a fun discussion. People ate, drank, soaked, smoked, talked and laughed. Again, here i was sitting half naked among a random group of other naked or half naked people soaking in the Rocky mountains at 11,300ft on a freezing night with beautiful moonlight all around taking in the warmth of the water. Conundrum hot springs had lived up to its magical reputation yet again! There is something special about Conundrum i guess, even the most shy and introverted person can start to relax and feel all the tensions and shyness slip  away in the hot springs! As time past people starting returning to the tents, and at around close to midnight, reluctantly, we too left the springs, changed, and crept into our tents nearby and soon were fast asleep.

Next morning, i awoke by around 8-9 and got cleaned up and ate something. As there was nothing much to do i headed down to the springs for a soak again. I was the only one there. By around 930 i saw the first of the few groups starting to return back down the trail. After a while i was joined by the 2 others of my group, and we let the fourth member get a head start by starting to return down earlier than us. I was happy. Soon the bachelor party guys joined in the soak as well and started playing a floating board game (3 little pigs im inclined to say if i remember correctly) We all soaked for about an hour or so. The pictures and the surroundings looked even prettier in the early morning sunshine than they did last evening in the setting sunlight.

Monochrome pic of me, solitary soaking in the Hot springs in the morning
Fun group enjoying a morning soak on a chilly day
Snow covered trail heading off to the upper campsites.

Another view looking down the valley from the Conundrum hot springs. A majestic view
White-Blue-Green
Reluctantly, i left the hot springs with my group as the others continued to soak. We packed and started hiking downwards back to base. The return hike down the valley was pretty easy and we covered the miles at a very good pace. Soon we were at all the trail/mile marker we eagerly waited for while going up. The hike through the meadows, the stream crossings all went by pretty fast and we found ourselves on the first stream crossing, 2.5miles away from the trail head. It is true what they say… the last mile seems the longest…. it indeed was… after pushing through the last mile we found ourselves back at the trail head and after a while were joined by none other than the bachelor party guys who too had left shortly after us. We all said goodbye and set off back to Boulder!

It was a very unique weekend, actually experiencing the Colorado backcountry wilderness first hand!

I may be back again here, maybe next time during the Fall to see all the splendid fall colors and golden aspen! 🙂

Final view of Conundrum peaks on the return journey heading back

A small snow melt run off off the cliff along the trail. A great place to fill up fresh water

Heading back form the Conundrum Creek trailhead. What a trip it was.

Backpacking Conundrum Hot Springs, Aspen, CO !

Ever since i moved to Colorado in 2010 and heard about Conundrum hot springs ive wanted to get there. My first chance came mid October in 2012 when a hiking group posted this as a weekend backpacking trip. Excited, i signed up immediately and soon found out that it was a hot favorite of the group to be done just after the Fall season was over. Over 30 people signed up, but as fate would have it, there was a huge snow storm forecast for Wednesday through Friday; with the most snowfall on Thursday.

As expected folks started to drop out and on the day before our departure even though there were a handful of people still interested, on the Friday only 3 people, me included, showed up at the meeting spot. I too was debating about going or not. This was going to be only my third ever backpack, and i wasn’t sure id be able to handle the cold and hiking in snow. Resolute, i decided to go, and  over prepared, with heavy jackets, thermals, waterproof jackets, woolens, etc and a thick sleeping bag rated 10. We reached the trail-head late Friday night battling fierce snow storms and winds up on the passes on I-70, and started hiking early on Saturday. The whole hike was under thick foggy/cloudy weather , with intermittent light snowfall. The visibility was poor (hardly 30 feet) and the sun was never out.  The trail started off pretty gradually, ascending noticeably after the 2.5 mile marker (the first stream crossing bridge). I chugged along the next long stretch though the snow and fog in what appeared to be meadows, but it was hard to tell. Due to the fog we had no idea what we were hiking around or hiking towards. It was pretty boring. Carrying a super heavy pack, and wearing a heavy jacket, i got dehydrated perhaps and started cramping out, in both legs.  I had to stop several times.

The trail begins, with snow, fog and clouds. No sun at all

 Slowly, i reached the second marker, the second stream crossing (at around 6 miles) and came across the beautiful silver dollar pond (seen below)- calm water with trees all covered in snow. I still had a long way to go, and my cramps were acting up again, this time more severe and rattling my legs. I huff and puff, drink in shots of electrolytes, pray and push my legs one step at a time. It was a mental game. I knew in my mind i couldnt give up, and my heart wanted to reach the springs. The only way to go is up ! After all the meadows, the trail started climbing steadily on the final ascent though the forest to the hot springs, i did the slow hike though the snow one step at a time.

At the Silver dollar pond.

A faint peak peeking though the fog and clouds. The fog literally masked all the impressive peaks flanking the valley we were hiking though.. It was a pretty snowy trail through the meadows.

I was nervous and prayed and pushed myself, now alone on the trail going though the snowy forest, and managed to complete the hike just as the sun was setting. Being mid October it was pretty dark early. It was a long, painful, solitary hike with no views whatsoever! After setting up the tent i napped for 30mins to rest my legs and then headed to the hot springs which had a very jovial, communal atmosphere, and many folks were settling in to soak in the cold freezing night.

There were about 15 people in the springs including a big group of kids from the CU Alpine club.  I loved the hot springs instantly, the warm waters soothing the aching muscles and the friendly banter acting as a balm on the frosty night. The alcohol and the joints were passing around freely now and the laughter was catching. I think this was the first time i got to actually experience the hippy culture, as well as got a small (some what high) peek into the lives and experiences of American high-school kids and college freshmen, here… sitting half naked among a random group of naked or half naked folk soaking in the Rocky mountains 11,300feet above sea level! What an experience, i will always remember it! People had dinner in the springs itself, with some well prepared ones cooking up tasty meals in jetboils set on the rocks banking  the springs, as it was freezing cold so no one was complaining. Somewhere close to 11pm, the clouds cleared a bit, and we were treated to a star filled sky. Ive never before seen such a sight before. Within minutes we were spotting shooting stars that seemed too close for us to touch! Simply Amazing, and no amount of description would do justice to the sights and the experiences i think…Conundrum Hot springs had lived up to its magical reputation!

Me soaking in the Conundrum Hot springs, early on Sunday morning. Admiring the view down the valley.

Happy, and reluctantly, i left the springs along with others also heading towards my tent direction. Changing into clothes in the freezing windy night was interesting too. My towel was frozen, so were the shoes, socks and shoe-laces, by the condensed moisture collected on it. We made it into our clothes and along the dark path to our tents soon. I slept soundly through the night, my core body temperature having been restored by the long soak, and awoke early next morning.The sun was out and the gloomy cloudy weather was totally gone. I took another short soak this time alone in the hot springs, this was when i got to actually see the amazing location of the springs, nestled nicely in a high alpine valley with tall snowy peaks flanking both sides and the pine trees spreading out ahead through the valley. Soon i packed up and headed back down the trail to the cars. This downhill hike was much easier and my muscles managed it with no problem at all. The sun seemed to have melted off all the fine snow from the previous night, and we could see the dried up grass and aspens along the slopes now. Soon we were at the cars and heading back to Boulder, looking at the mountains and the Valley in the rear view mirror, i vowed to be back, next time in better weather with no cramps! “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” the rear view mirror says…. How true i thought ….

Hiking down though the meadows on the way back. Dry grass and aspen everywhere. Sunshine streaming in and blue skies, we yearned for while hiking up the day before.
“Objects in the mirror are close than they appear”

Ringing the Bells- Maroon bells 4 pass loop, Aspen, CO

We’ed initially planned to do the famous Maroon bells 4 pass loop over the July 4th long weekend. But there was still too much snow at the passes from the last winter and so waited for some more weeks, and finally decided to do it Mid August over a weekend.

The drive from Boulder to Aspen on Friday was pretty uneventful  – going by the independence pass route and the scenery everywhere was nice and lush green. We reached the Maroon lake trail head at around 630PM and started hiking, our destination for the night was a couple miles in and 1000ft up past Crater Lake. We found a good spot, setup camp, ate dinner under the stars and went to bed

Next morning we had an early start and started hiking upwards and onwards to our first pass- Buckskin pass. The Maroon-Snowmass trail wound up the valley steadily. After rising through the forests of pine and aspen, the views started to open up. Everything was lush green with lots of wildflowers and a sweet scent in the air. The pass started to come into view high up following the steep switchbacks. Finally we found ourselves on the top of Buckskin pass 12500ft.- the pass out of the four with the maximum elevation gain! The views on either side were amazing. Behind us was the valley and maroon bells range from where we had started, Beyond us was the vast expanse of backcountry wilderness, with the Snowmass lake and valley visible in the distance backed by the Snowmass peak, Capitol ridge and other 14er’s.

After taking in the views, we descended steeply into the valley and then the trail slowly mellowed into open meadows and after the first basin the trail dropped steeply again and we were soon at the bottom of the valley we had seen from the pass. The trail continued though forests and by a creek and in a couple hours we were on the banks of the Snowmass Lake at 11,000ft. We lunched on the banks of the lake under the towering Snowmass Peak. Stocked up on energy bars and some chocolate and then continued on the trail past the lake.

The trail climbed up moderately through the trees. While climbing, on our right was the azure blue colored waters of Snowmass lake that just continued to take our breath away higher and higher we went. Past the tree line we were in a vast grassy meadow with amazing views all around us and the steep switchbacks going up to Trail Rider Pass in the front. The top view of snow mass lake was amazing as i continued to huff-and-puff to get on with the steepest climb upto the Pass 12420ft. On the pass there were a bunch of social people talking about their adventures. Most of them were on the loop in clockwise direction and were going down the trail we’ed come up and were camping at the Snowmass lake. After a photo op on the top of the pass down we went on the other side. This side was grassy and open meadows. Past the steep descent from the pass the trail flattened out for a mile or so and we stopped by a small quaint little pond for a while and then continued onwards.

On the edge of the meadow the trail started to drop into the Fravert basin valley. The switchbacks were many and steep. Luckily we were going down on them. We descended fast. It had been a long day with lots of elevation gain and loss and were eagerly waiting to reach the campsites in the valley. At around 630 we reached the campsite in a clearing in the woods with amazing views of the Maroon Peak to the East and by the banks of the Crystal river, We ate, relaxed and stretched out  our tired feet ,and waited for sunset that was gorgeous. Soon we retired into our tents and sleep was upon us very quickly.

On Sunday- our last day – we got ready, ate and started the hike to the last 2 passes. Both of them were not as much in steep elevation gain and the elevation change and distance between the two was not as much as the previous day.. encouraged we started hiking though the Fravert basin along the Crystal river and were soon greeted by a wonderful waterfall.The trail climbed up steeply for a while on switchbacks and then leveled out though some trees on one side and an open meadow and creek on the other. And the slopes of the Maroon bells ranges visible in the distance. We covered the miles at the good pace on the mostly level trail until the trail opened out in a vast expanse of grass just below the backside of the Maroon peak.

Here on the trail climbed steadily and steeply. Again i huffed-and -puffed and pushed myself up the steep rocky switchbacks and after a while was on top of Frigid Air Pass (12,415′) The view of the Maroon peak and the vast meadow and basin underneath was amazing. On the other side of the pass was another expanse of wilderness- the Crested Butte side with vast valley full of grassy meadows and wild flowers. After taking inthe views at the Frigid air pass, we descended down the trail and into the valley.

 It was pretty level with the open wilderness slopes on our right hand side. Soon we were at the fork and took the left to the final pass the West Maroon Pass. I refilled water in the stream from fresh snowmelt, and braced myself for the final climb. It was pretty steady and not as steep as the earlier ones and soon was on the last set of rocky switchbacks and on top of the pass. The view again was amazing. Behind us was the crested butte valley and dark clouds were starting to roll in over there. On the other side was the west maroon valley, that we descended down following the trail. There were no switchbacks so soon we descended and were into the valley … We continued on the trail admiring the views of Maroon peak on the left and the creek and valley on the right.Lots of wild flowers

Winding trail continued past the campsites in the West Maroon valley, and soon were passing the campsites past the Crater Lake that were closed for some time due to recent bear activity there. After a final photo op at crater lake we continued past the final mile of the trail and were back at the Maroon Lake trail head.

We soaked our tired feet in the col waters of the lake for a while amid a crowd of people. Maroon Peak and Lake is supposedly the most photographed location in the US- it was indeed beautiful (and easy to get to) Soon we were on our way back to Boulder after gorging on delicious cheesy pizza in Aspen. It was a Killer backpack with killer views. Im glad and proud that i did it – and managed it in 2 days !

Cirque of the Towers: Backpacking the Winds

Over Labor day weekend 2014, our hiking group from Boulder, CO did an amazing backpacking trip to Cirque of the towers in the Wind river range, WY. Here is a short glimpse of our adventure:

Friday afternoon we started the 7.x hour drive from Boulder to the trail head hoping to reach there by before midnight. But we had a car oil leak somewhere around Sinclair,WY and ultimately decided to stop for the night at Rock Springs, WY hoping to get it fixed early next morning. After much talk about where to lay that night, we ultimately succumbed to the hippy spirit imbibed from Boulder,CO i guess and slept out in the open under the stars on a small hillock by the I80. Next morning luckily the car got fixed early and we were on our way once again much relieved. enroute topics ranged from backpacking adventures, wyoming, investing, dumpster diving , Boulder. etc. and in no time we were at the Big Sandy trail head and started hiking by around 12:30pm. 2 of our party were supposed to meet us at the trailhead but due to our delay we missed them and hoped they hiked in and would catch them at the Cirque.

The trail began through pine and aspen forests gently gaining winding up a gently flowing river. It opened up on a couple of meadows that gave us panoramas of the stream, forests and the mountains. Twas a very grey day. With a couple of stops for pictures of huge mushrooms and water breaks, we were at the Big Sandy Lake at 6mi. and the weather had started to turn looking very ominous.

While debating about whether to continue up to the pass or wait for the weather to clear, we talked about going by being stuck by lightning, out in the wilderness and death and what lies beyond

Being out in the wilderness with random people tends to bring up very interesting subjects to talk about…

Ultimately deciding to get closer to the pass and then reconsider the weather and make a decision, we continued past Big sandy lake up to the intersection with the Temple peak trail and the Jackass pass trail. Here we took shelter between a bunch of trees as it was too windy and there was a heavy onslaught of rain-ice. Here we ate and saw a huge group with around 5 or 6 lamas pass by. They were planning to be in the wilderness for a week, and the Lamas were carrying their climbing gear. Another first for me… had not seen lamas ever before. After about 30-40 minutes the rain receded and there was a patch of blue sky over the direction of the trail we were supposed to be ascending.

Encouraged, we started the climb up towards Jackass pass. The trail ascended quickly and we got a panoramic top view of big sand lake. Then the trail continued steadily past a valley and after a stream crossing pictured below, it started ascending again through a very rocky terrain.

Up up and away we went on a rocky trail guided by cranes when the trail was not clear for a while, then the trail descended slightly to a beautify lake with the panorama of mountains we had just left behind in the background. The weather too had stared to clear with the sunny blue skies and puffy white clouds being a welcome sight as compared to the stormy weather before. Past the lake the trail again climbed steadily and now the trail was “opening up” giving us views of rocky slopes on one side and a forested valley on the other. We were getting closer! Soon we got the first peek of the prize… the Cirque of the Towers (picture below)

 It turned out that that view – although very gorgeous was not the pass. Soon the trail descended again down and we were at an intersection with the Arrowhead lake on one side (below) and a steep 800′ ascent to the actual Jackass Pass. We climbed steadily and reached the top. It was intensely windy. And it was against the direction of motion… so we had to exert ourselves even more. Soon past the pass the trail once again and finally descended to the Lonesome lake – our destination for the night.

We descended quickly- the grey clouds were building up again over the Cirque. Filled up water at the lake and went to the nearby woods scouting for a camping spot. Soon it started to drizzle and we setup camp on a good spot before the rain got stronger. The rain receded again and we ate and talked by a campfire. By around 1030 we were getting sleepy and the sky was getting lit by some distant lightening far away. We called it a night and crept into our tents and into our warm sleeping bags.

No sooner than i was about to fall asleep the sky was alit with brilliant flashes of lightning and strong thunder. Rain was on again. As the thundering and lightning continues into the night the temperatures fall and soon rain turned to hail and ice. But tiredness took over and the thunder wasnt strong enough to keep me from falling asleep.

We awoke next day to a close to freezing morning with low fog and clouds hanging over the cirque. The condensation had frozen through the night making our campsite even colder. Slowly in the cold we ate, cleaned up and got ready. Our plan for the day was to explore the area around Texas pass and lakes .. but due to weather it wasnt a good idea and we decided to go down the open valley and explore some of the unnamed lakes.

We started off the gentle trail going past thick forests, some streams and started getting warmed up. The sun too peaked out of the clouds for a short while and with our quickening pace it was time to shed some warmer layers. After a while we were in a vast open meadow with gorgeous views of peaks all around us. The Cirque behind us was still covered with the low hanging clouds that seemed so heavy that they had just settled comfortably over the Cirque. But on either side and beyond we could see the beautiful dusting of fine sugar on the mountains. The first coating of snow on tall granite blackish peaks looked amazing. While still in the meadow, the weather turned again and it started raining-snowing. The wind too picked up. We pondered that the area was so aptly named.

We continued on the mellow trail though the forests, over a couple stream crossings, stopping for lunch in a forested area full for wild mushrooms of all different sizes and colors. After a while we crossed a stream hoping to get to a lake on the other side. But no sooner after crossing we came across another huge stream that was flowing in the opposite direction to the one we had just crossed. Confused, we huddled up and debated what was going on and being engineers came up with plausible theories. Ultimately we crossed the second stream as well and after some thick tress we came to the shore of the beautiful lake (pictured below) with glistening blue water, tall pine trees on the bank and 12000′ granite towers  with a fine dusting of snow in the background. The clouds were moving here making the sunlight come and go. When the sun was out the water turned into an incredible shade of blue. After a good photo op and jumping around the rocks to get better views, we turned around and were soon back on the trail heading back.

The weather going back was much better. Still cloudy but not as much and no rain. The sun was out too over part of the valley and blue skies that we had eagerly awaited over some of the peaks.The weather made much of a difference and were able to quickly re-trace our steps back to our campsite near Lonesome lake. After moving our tents to a further location following a note from the ranger that we were less than 0.25mi from the lake, Two folks were tired and retired and decided to build up a campfire – which was going be challenging as it had been raining all day and everything was very dank. The three of us continued past the lake up the trail to a waterfall we had seen on our way in.

On our way we strolled though open meadows with some wild flowers, many wild mushrooms, pine trees and some streams. In an opening we saw a white tailed deer and two moose. Yay! Soon winding up the trail we were right at the base of the Cirque, with the towers right up in front. The weather too had cleared and we got amazing views of the towers with wispy clouds flying past slowly. The view from the waterfall was amazing.

We continued past the meadows over the waterfall hoping to get to the greenish lake right at the base of the towers. On our way there we saw a couple of tents and wondered how it would have been camping up there with thick clouds and furious thunder and lightning on the previous night. Gazing awestruck at the rocky peaks towering over us, and after a short scramble over some gigantic boulders we reached the lake but turned around quickly as it was too windy and was starting to drizzle again.

Retracing our steps to the campsite and the warm and welcoming campfire, we finally relaxed, changed from our drenched socks and shoes and settled down by the fire for food drink and talk. We made a drying rack close to the fire and hung out our socks and shoes. Soon our clothes, socks and shoes were steaming and were pretty dry and warm. We stoked the fire and chatted for a long while and retired to bed at about 10:30pm after having a tentative timeline for the next days plan to head out

Next morning was warm and nice with clear blue skies and no sign of rain nor storm. It was a totally different scene now. Perfect for our journey over the pass. We ate, refilled water at the lake, took some pics and were off , upwards and onwards on the climb back over the pass.

This time we took a slightly different trail form the intersection at Arrowhead lake… that turned out to be shorter and avoided the 2 going up and downs over the pass… although it was very rocky in some sections and involved scrambling. Past the pass and arrowhead lake, we rejoined the old trail that we had taken going up. It was a pretty easy hike out … all downhill and soon we were past the lake and were having lunch on the Big sandy lake overlook from the top.

The weather was incredible and the blue skies with fluffy white clouds gave us some good pics with nice contrast. Soon we were past big sandy lake on the flat and final 5 miles out to the trailhead. It dint take us long to do the final miles but they sure felt long.. Finally we made it back to our cars, stretched out for a bit and were on our drive back. The talk now ranged form god and atheism, driving , driving habits, more past adventures and experiences and finally we found ourselves back in Boulder, tired but happy !

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